When Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA) needs a hand, who steps up to help? Last year, 2,200 volunteers contributed a combined 8,600 hours of service.
They monitored streams for water quality, removed invasive plants, picked up trash along river and stream banks, planted trees, maintained trails, promoted well testing, helped out at Nature Day Camps, built bird nesting boxes, served as RHA ambassadors at public events, and more.
On Feb. 27, Raritan Headwaters honored seven outstanding 2019 volunteers at its annual member meeting and volunteer recognition dinner in Oldwick.
“We are incredibly grateful for our volunteers,” said Trish McGuire, RHA volunteer manager. “Their contributions and passion enhance our ability to carry out our conservation mission.”
She added: “One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Volunteerism is where everyone committed to strengthening the common good comes together.’”
The volunteers honored were:
Nick Romanenko of Califon received the Suki Dewey Volunteer of the Year award for his 13 years of dedicated service. He began volunteering in 2007 as a trustee of the South Branch Watershed Association, and continued after it merged with the Upper Raritan Watershed Association to become RHA. As an avid fisherman and member of Trout Unlimited, he leads volunteer stream restoration projects; as a professional photographer, he donates his time and talent to fill RHA’s archives with beautiful images. He is a loyal volunteer at RHA events, including the annual Country Fair. And he has a perfect attendance record at Board of Trustees meetings.
“Nick is a stellar volunteer, enthusiastically supporting our watershed protection mission for over 13 years,” said McGuire. “We are truly grateful to Nick for his dedication and service and very happy to recognize him as our Suki Dewey Volunteer of the Year.”
Kim Nowicki of Basking Ridge was honored for her leadership in bringing students from the Bonnie Brae School to work on land stewardship projects at RHA’s campus, the 170-acre Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve. “When Kim began supervising the boys on their trips to RHA, we watched the program flourish,” said McGuire. “Kim shows the boys how to work by digging into the project and leading by example. She motivates the group with positive feedback and reminders of the goals for the day. Her impact shows, as the boys accomplish so much more under her direction.”
Ken Snyder of Morristown was honored helping restore the health of RHA’s properties with his volunteer land stewardship work. “He knows his mission, it parallels ours: healthy ecosystems on our land ultimately lead to high-quality water in our streams,” said Rebekah Buczynski, RHA’s stewardship manager. “One such ecosystem that Ken is now expert in stewarding is that of the diminutive, yet fiercely beautiful bird of prey, the American kestrel.” Snyder, who is retired, has also installed bat boxes in Fairview Farm’s meadows and owl boxes in the forests.
Cierra Harris of Morristown was honored for her assistance with RHA’s Nature Day Camp last summer. She started as a camp helper through the Morris County Vocational School District’s Structured Learning Experience program, and stayed out of enthusiasm for the program. “She came to us with an outstanding knowledge of environmental science, poise, grace and professionalism well beyond her years,” said Lauren Theis, RHA’s education director. “Cierra went above and beyond her duties, and continued to volunteer after completing her requirements for the Structured Learning Experience program.”
Alan Stultz of Annandale was honored for his dedication to monitoring water quality in local streams. He started as a stream monitor volunteer and expanded his involvement by taking on additional responsibilities. He participates in biweekly chemical sampling of stream water as part of a partnership project with Raritan Valley Community College, allowing RHA to identify problem sites that will be part of future case studies and analyses. “Alan donates his time to ensure that our water is being tested with enough frequency that we can detect any significant problems and try to mitigate in a timely fashion,” said Maria Berezin, RHA watershed scientist. “This helps to advance our mission and expand our capacity.” Stultz also helped monitor water turbidity during the removal of the Burnt Mills dam last fall, and spent time talking to residents of the area about the project and its importance to water quality.
Catherine Innella, of Long Valley, deputy clerk in Franklin Township (Hunterdon County, and Diane Burgess of Franklin Township, chair of the township’s Environmental Commission, were honored for their help in promoting well testing to ensure drinking water safety. Since 2001, Raritan Headwaters and Franklin Township have partnered to provide residents an opportunity to test their well water reliably, conveniently and affordably to benefit public health. “This public service allows for more residents to take advantage of the program, and brings us closer to our goal of safe, clean drinking water for all,” said Mara Tippett, RHA’s well test manager.